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The Dangers of Using YouTube in the Classroom

Feb 13, 2020 7:00:00 AM

The importance of using video in the modern classroom can’t be overstated. Students are so accustomed to engaging with media-rich content outside of the classroom that it’s become a near necessity to include it inside the classroom for purposes of engagement. Using video can also help reinforce educational concepts that are challenging to convey verbally or with still imagery, and one study shows a litany of other benefits, including cultural awareness, digital literacy and workforce preparedness.

The majority of district administrators and directors of instructional technology and curriculum already understand the importance of educational video resources. But actually getting them into the classroom can be a challenge.

For one, publishers and courseware creators have been slow to implement video in their digital products. This is partly because professionally produced video is often set at a price point beyond what’s appropriate for the educational market, and partly because the effort to source videos and secure licenses from rights-holders is laborious and time-consuming.

Since educational publishers aren’t filling teachers’ and students’ demands quickly enough, it falls to teachers and instructional technology specialists to fill the void. One of the easiest and most attractive ways to increase video content in the classroom has been YouTube. The content is free, and there are plenty of genuinely useful (and even entertaining!) educational videos on the platform.

But using YouTube or other video sharing sites in an educational setting is fraught–as many teachers and school personnel already know. Here’s why:

Distracting or Harmful Content

The biggest problem with YouTube in the classroom is that, by design, it’s challenging to isolate one video from everything else that’s on the platform. A teacher may well find a very useful video on YouTube but has little control over the “related videos” section.

The “related videos” currently shows up in a sidebar on most devices and also populates a mosaic of “watch next” videos when the chosen video is completed. What shows up here is a mix including videos the algorithm decides are similar to the one just viewed, plus sponsored content (ads) and videos similar to those previously viewed in the account.

YouTube recommendations

This can be problematic in an educational setting. If the teacher is showing a video from his or her own account, the “related videos” section can be both distracting and embarrassing. If students are viewing the video on their own devices, this section may be populated by videos related to their hobbies. In either case, engagement is harmed by the preponderance of distracting thumbnails.

At best, these suggested videos are distracting. At worst, they actively harm the educational experience.

Quality or Accuracy Issues

General quality and accuracy issues are also cause for concern. YouTube content is not well vetted, and it’s certainly not vetted on an educational accuracy level. Extremely violent or sexual content isn’t allowed (though because of the site’s design it still sneaks through), but there’s no requirement to be accurate or truthful. Users can say just about whatever they want.

Additionally, online video sites like YouTube are a haven for conspiracy theorists and even “parody conspiracy” content. A search for “flat earth” or any recent conspiracy theory will reveal just how prevalent this content can be. Some of these videos may seem convincing or be titled in a way that doesn’t reveal the conspiracy view.

This intentionally misleading content is especially problematic for school-aged children who may be more susceptible to misinformation. Michael Sykes of Axios put it this way:

“While YouTube is packed with information and tutorials, it can also be a dangerous place for students with misinformation running rampant.”

For teachers to use YouTube in the classroom with any degree of confidence, they must take the time to thoroughly vet every single video. This takes time that teachers simply don’t have.

Privacy Concerns and the “Creep Factor”

YouTube has come under fire recently for a few issues related to children and privacy. In August 2019 YouTube finally agreed to stop targeting advertisements on videos that are popular with kids. This decision was the outcome of a settlement from an FTC investigation into Google’s compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Act, according to Bloomberg.

That’s not nearly as unsettling as some of YouTube’s other missteps regarding content and kids. YouTube’s algorithm was shown to actively direct viewers from sexually charged videos of adults to similar “innocent” videos of kids. The comments sections of the latter videos were and are disturbing.

YouTube says it’s working to fix issues like these, but educators using the platform must be prepared to deal with whatever the next manifestation of problems like these will be. Unfortunately, the potential for abuse is baked into the very nature of the site as a home for user-generated content.

YouTube home screen

Outside the LMS

Most of the digital learning strategies employed in today’s classrooms exist within a learning management system, or LMS. YouTube doesn’t. It’s simply not possible to integrate native YouTube content into most learning management systems. So educators are forced to send students outside the sandbox of the LMS onto the broader web.

Blocked Entirely

One related problem is that, faced with the many issues described above, some districts and many private schools have limited YouTube access or blocked it entirely on the school’s network. Teachers without classroom access to YouTube must find another solution.

No Control over Link Permanence

The final frustration educators face with using YouTube in the classroom is that videos disappear all the time. The link that worked last year may be dead this year, or it may lead to a completely different video. This is a problem for publishers as well.

A Solution to the Classroom Video Conundrum

Boclips released a video solution for teachers that avoids the dangers and problems that come along with YouTube. With a massive library of over 1 million educational videos, teachers can find content that’s both vetted for accuracy and appropriateness and free from distracting ads or “related videos.”

Interested in starting a free trial with Boclips to see what a safe alternative to YouTube can do for student engagement and satisfaction? Schedule a demo or download the product info sheet to learn more.

 

 

Download the Boclips for Teachers info sheet

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Written by boclipsEDU